[I love this…I do wonder what he would say about ‘chronic’ emotions…???]
There are no ‘destructive emotions’, just as there are no ‘destructive thoughts’.
Emotions – sadness, fear, anger, joy, excitement, disgust – are simply energies in the body. Thoughts are just thoughts in the mind. What causes ‘destruction’ and violence is not thoughts and feelings themselves, for they are always neutral and natural energies in us, but our automatic and habitual REACTIONS to those thoughts and feelings, our defences around them, the ways we go to war with them, deny them, numb ourselves to them, act them out in harmful ways, even attacking others (or ourselves) in our search for peace and relief from them.
Fear and anger can be incredibly uncomfortable energies, of course! The tightness in the belly or chest, the raging heartbeat, the heat, the dizziness, the confusion, the nausea….
If we look with an honest awareness, there’s a part of us that doesn’t’ WANT to be having this experience, doesn’t want the intensity, the fire, the discomfort, the aliveness, and wants to blame someone or something for the way we feel. We were never taught how to meet this discomfort in the body, stay with it, breathe into it. We feel an impulse – to run or to fight, to escape, to attack someone, to get out of our bodies. We feel the urge to lash out, to call someone names, to punch, to try and hurt them as much as possible. This is our reaction to the feeling, NOT the feeling itself. The feeling is just a feeling. Our reaction is our reaction. We must disentangle the two. Drench them both with understanding…
This is where meditation comes in. We can slow right down now. Breathe. Feel our feet on the ground. Notice all the intense sensations in our bodies – the fluttering, the pounding, the vibrations, the heat, the sharpness, the tensions, the pressure. We can bring awareness to all the pictures and voices in our minds too, the fantasy movie we are playing out, the internal screaming, thoughts about past and future, thoughts about hurting someone, breaking something, lashing out, running away, destroying the world or destroying ourselves. We can see that these are all images, pictures, not reality.
We can begin, moment by moment, to ALLOW all our thoughts and sensations to be here. Breathe into them. Drench them with fascination. They will not harm us, or anyone, as we allow them. This is a very private, internal experience…
We can interrupt our habitual ‘reaction’ to feelings by slowing right down and actually becoming curious about the reactive part of us, the part that wants to lash out. We can bring great compassion and understanding to that destructive impulse – without having to act on it. And without numbing it. Seeing it as just a lost and lonely part of us. An innocent child, looking for help. Something in us, seeking relief.
If we feel guilt or shame over having ‘negative’ thoughts and feelings, we can notice and allow that too.
We can now respond from presence rather than react from our programming. We can acknowledge, in presence, that we feel afraid, or that we feel angry, yes, and that we also feel the impulse or urge to get out of our bodies, to attack, to blame, to hurt ourselves or others. We can see these possibilities but we don’t have to act them out. Just see them with non-judgmental eyes.
Fear and anger are not destructive in themselves – but we must really LOOK to know this. We must untangle the natural feeling from our resistance to, or our conditioned reaction to, the feeling. We must drench our physical sensations with loving awareness, and shine a compassionate light on the mind too. So we are no longer a slave to our reactions.
Bringing into awareness an old and deeply ingrained pattern, we can now choose something entirely new: a deep commitment to our feelings and our bodies in the present moment, a profound compassion for the frightened or angry one inside of us, and inside every human being. And from presence, we can say to ourselves, or to a friend, “I feel afraid” or “I feel angry”. And we can tell our story, share our vulnerability, owning our own thoughts and feelings, even if they are fiery and raw.
There are no “destructive emotions” – only our emotions, and then our impulse to destroy them, or destroy others in our search for relief from them.
What if we can actually find relief – and even peace – at the core of the intensity of our emotions?
Peace at the heart of fear? Calm at the core of anger? Great joy at the centre of sorrow?
If we actually allow ourselves to feel, to lean into the scary and fiery feelings, to breathe into our bellies and chests and throats, to soften into the moment and allow all thoughts in our minds, we may find gold.
– Jeff Foster